Thursday, 26 January 2017

High Five

The Pendlebury Centre, my 'day job' away from this website, was visited earlier this month by Ofsted. Naturally it was a stressful period, more so the build-up during the afternoon of the day before the inspectors arrived rather than the inspection itself. I would argue it was 'good stress' because of the culture of the Pendlebury Centre - it was more about getting clarity about the particular things we wanted to focus on in the forthcoming 'dialogue' rather than trying to dress things up or paint over any cracks. Around 30 hours after the initial telephone call, we received feedback we were provisionally on for a fifth 'Outstanding' judgement. 

In turn, the inspection findings have been quality assured, published as a letter and can now be widely shared and celebrated: Pendlebury Centre - Ofsted Report, January 2017

I have read much about the toxic effect of Ofsted on school life, and of course it is easy me for say this on the back of my most recent inspection experience, but I have never experienced a 'bad Ofsted' in how it was carried out (this was the fourth of my career). Although fortunately for only very short periods, I have experienced bad school leadership and this proved to be far more damaging for me personally than any inspection - because these are the people you spend days, weeks and months of your lives with not 24 - 48 hours, people you need to trust for guidance and support.

So I do happen to agree that Ofsted, rather than always being an actual 'monster', is being made a monster because of the way some school leaders perceive it and present it to their staff - as this 'Secret Teacher' blog from the Guardian describes. Although I must add the caveat that such an observation, no matter how valid, doesn't necessarily offset the various criticism of Ofsted from credible figures.

Counting on my hands, I am on my fifteenth year of teaching (which suddenly makes me feel very old!). I feel fortunate to work where I do, with the leadership above me and the team around me - and the students, families and colleagues from partner organisations I come across daily. That's not always been the case but I have come to believe the 'lean times' are what help keep you grounded and rounded during the 'times of plenty'.

I know too many teachers who have been unhappy in their careers - largely due to school culture - and it grates on me when I read teachers are leaving the profession in increasingly high numbers. But rather than be consumed by doom and gloom, I always say it is the knack (or luck) of finding 'the right job in the right school' - I consider myself lucky that the various points of my own career can be described in this way.

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